Tag: idleness

The art of a cup of tea

There’s something about having a cup of tea that’s very different to having a cup of coffee. They’re both a means to an end, but the ends differ massively.

The point is that even if you are the kind of person who wants to do nothing, the world today will seemingly not leave you alone to your languid contemplation and staring out of the window nothingness. It is unacceptable, it’s bad for the economy, it’s somehow letting the side down. So in my pretty vast experience of being an idler in a world of strivers I have found that you need some sort of prop to handle while doing nothing. This explains the enduring, never-to-be-fully-extinguished appeal of the cigarette break and it’s more wholesome cousin, the subject of today’s discussion, the lovely cup of tea.


If you are sleep deprived tea will not give you a jolt of fleeting alertness to get through another day and help delay confronting the issue that you aren’t getting enough quality sleep. If you have masses of work and a tight deadline, tea will not give you a ‘Limitless’ style ability to get it done despite the odds. If anything tea could slow you down. I can’t envision a montage in one of those interminable, never-ending TV series where the group of lawyers or programmers or detectives have to pull an all-nighter beginning with the team getting out the single origin Assam and their best China.


We intuitively know that the tea itself is probably a nothing in and by itself, and that it probably does nothing in and by itself, but that this a nothing we can ritualise and return to as a refuge from the pressures of the day to day. In a world overstuffed with disorder and frantic activity, calm is found not in a location but in a ritual. It is found by enjoying an end-in-itself pleasure that promises nothing but itself. And that’s all it needs to be.

Source: On Tea and the Art of Doing Nothing | Thomas J Bevan

Enforced idleness

Some people think it’s the Protestant work ethic, others that it’s a genetic predisposition. Me? I think it’s to do with the highly competitive nature of western societies.

Whatever you think causes it, the inability of adults, including myself, to spend a day doing nothing is kind of problematic. It’s something I often discuss with Laura Hilliger (and she refers to it regularly in her excellent newsletter)

There’s a university in Hamburg, Germany, giving out ‘idleness grants’ for people to do absolutely nothing. Emma Beddington’s answers to the questions on the application form aren’t too different to how I’d answer:

What do you not want to do? I want not to compare my achievements, or lack of them, with others’. If successful, for the duration of my idleness grant I will crush the exhausting running mental commentary that points out what those with energy, drive and ambition are achieving and enumerates my inadequacies. When one or other of my nemeses tweets the dread phrase “some personal news” (always the precursor to an announcement of professional glory), I will not feel bad, because I will have accepted that “being quite lazy” has inherent merit in 2020.

Emma Beddington, Doing nothing is so easy for me. But how to feel good about it? (The Guardian)

It’s always possible to do more and be more, but sometimes it’s important to just spend time being who you already are.